Once upon a time, I was visiting with a client that wanted to do a reality check of the planned ship date for the release. Here is how you can leverage the wisdom of crowds to get a accurate prediction for the release date in just 30 minutes.
Step 1: Get the team together
Call everyone over. Set up a meeting. Whatever. Aim to get all roles: product, dev, QA.
Step 2: Assess Understanding of Scope
It is a good idea to see how well people understand the scope of the project/release. This will tell you how much stock to put in their estimates/understanding. It will also tell you how much people are working in silos. On healthier teams I coach, everyone on the team knows the whole release scope and can walk people through it. It’s sitting on the wall in the team room where they can see it every day.
This team came up with about 6/10 where 10 = full understanding.
We can see that the team thinks it has an OK handle on the work.
Step 3: Confidence in the Existing Release Date
The next step is to ask the team how confident they are in hitting the release date. This team came up with about 5 wisonout of 10 where 10 = Yes, we will make it for sure.
As you can see the team is strongly divided between “not a chance” and “confident”.
Step 4: Estimate Time Remaining
The final question is where the real gold is: How many months before we will ship?
As we can see there are three votes for 5 months and three votes for 6 months. (Sorry, didn’t notice some of the 5 month votes were in the wrong place before taking the picture). Using Wisdom of Crowds, we can see that the release is about 5 months away. Not the 3 months that was expected. Bad news for sure, but good to know now.
Step 5: Conduct a Retrospective (optional)
While you have the team together, you may as well conduct a retrospective to identify what the team can do immediately to work more effectively. Chances are if a project is in bad shape, they cut retrospectives a while ago. You will need another 1 to 2 hours for this. In the case of the example client above, we did a retrospective and the team started acting on their findings immediately to turn their ship around.
Many organizations, even “Agile” ones do not like talk about inconvenient truths such as not making a release date. See: Red Pill, Blue Pill
Why Do We Need This?
You may be on a well-run Agile project. In which case, release forecasts are updated on a regular basis and tough decisions are made about scope and date. But many Agile teams still face the challenges of fixed scope + fixed date and the pressure that comes with it.
The team I was working with in this story was supposed to be doing Scrum but was in an ad-hoc mess that bore no resemblance to the Agile I know and love.
A friend of mine asked me what is going on with all this touchy-feely people and personal growth stuff – “What’s it got to do with Agile?” My answer: everything! So this post ties together: Agile, High-Performance Culture with People skills and Temenos Workshop among others.
Here is my current roadmap of focus areas related to rebooting organizational culture:
The arrows indicate support. For example, People Skills such as communication models lead to Relational Flow where people trust one another and are emotional supportive. This in turn leads to or supports High Performance Culture.
High Performance Culture is the Goal, but Need to Focus Elsewhere
My goal is to help organizations develop high performance culture through the creation of environments where people can bring their best every day. We can see there are a variety of things to focus on that will lead to support this goal.
Let’s take meditation as an example. There is no direct connection to high performance culture – it’s indirect. But in my experience it is 100% relevant and salient for bringing about a sequence of changes that support the goal. So, we need to focus on the things that will lead to a great culture and the ensuing results. Of course, there are many routes and practices – so nothing is mandatory: meditation works for me, but you may have an alternate route to personal growth.
This is not an exhaustive map of all the elements that lead to High Performance Culture – for sure there are lot’s of things we could add. My purpose in creating and sharing this is to create a call to action to focus on these or related elements so that we can really help organizations succeed.
Examples of Posts on these Topics
My hope is that you are curious about some of these content areas, so I will share some of my blog posts for further reading.
What is High-Performance Culture?
- Workshop on Characteristics of High-Performance Organizations
- Diverse Paths to High-Performance Organizational Culture
- Lululemon – A Stellar Example of Break-Through Organizational Culture
- The Power of Vulnerability
- Understand Shame to get to Root-Cause in Your Life
- Deep Insights around Fear, Risk, Safety and Vulnerability
- Change your Culture or Die
- Tactics, Strategy, & Culture – A Model for Thinking about Organizational Change
- KrisMap: An Organisation’s Persona
- Ways to Make Progress with Culture Gaps
- An Influencer’s Playbook
- Hierarchy = The Matrix
- How to Build a Culture Bubble
- How Change Initiatives Damage Organizations and Fail
- Organizational Transformation Checklist
- Visual Summary of Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide
- Agile Failure and Culture – Agile 2012 Workshop Results
- Transformation? Leaders Go First!
- Personal Transformation is the Heart of Organizational Transformation
- How to Incubate Transformational Leadership
The hierarchy is at the very center of our lives. We have experienced it in our school years and later when working in organizations. It’s existence and function is tacit in our understanding of reality.
At the Agile Alliance Change Agents workshop in Chicago in November, it became clear to me that the existence of hierarchy was greatly influencing the sessions. I sensed that there were two broad themes that emerged from the sessions.
One theme was around exploring Agile in the Enterprise. In this context, hierarchy was assumed. And much of the attention and energy seemed to be about finding ways to rise above and minimize the constraints it imposed. For example, how to shift focus on end-to-end flow.
Perhaps, the most insidious aspect of this is that our default assumptions around the hierarchy – it’s existence and requirements form the context of our thoughts. Just like how people are constrained to perceive reality in the movie the Matrix: we do not see or question it.
A second theme that emerged was around considering ways to create workplaces of joy – environments that foster an Agile mindset rather than constrict it. Agile provides a clear compelling model for organizing work and people. It does not, however, address the problem of organizational design: how to hire, promote and fire. How responsibility and leadership is enacted and enabled. This is an open problem. Included in this theme are questions such as team self-selection vs. deploying known patterns (e.g. Scrum). We need to find solutions to this so we can escape the Matrix.
First and foremost, I would like to thank the Agile Alliance for sponsoring this workshop and Diana Larsen for inviting me. I would also like to thank the whole group since these themes were an emergent result of all our combined questions, sharing and curiosity.
As a caveat, I am not trying to summarize all that happened, but rather provide one perspective.